Grammar: Lesson 2
What are the main findings from research on second language acquisition for the teaching of grammar in a second language class? Norris and Ortega (2000) conducted a meta-analysis of various research studies (published from 1980 to 1998) focused on determining the effectiveness of grammar teaching.
The following questions come from the Norris & Ortega article. Rank them in terms of how important they are in determining the main features of a pedagogical approach to teach grammar.
- Is an implicit or an explicit approach more effective for L2 instruction?
- Can raising learners’ metalinguistic awareness of specific L2 forms facilitate acquisition?
- Is attention to forms in meaning-focused lessons more effective than an exclusive focus on meaning and content?
- Is negative feedback beneficial for L2 development?
- Is comprehension practice as effective as production practice?
Main Findings from Norris and Ortega
The research concluded that, by and large, the explicit analysis of grammar was more beneficial than the indirect, implicit treatment of grammar. More specifically, Norris and Ortega argued that:
1. explicit types of instruction are more effective than implicit types and
2. Focus on Form (exclusive focus on meaning and content) and Focus on Forms (attention to forms in meaning-focused lessons) approaches produced similar outcomes.
The first argument supports the direct teaching of grammar and the second one specifies further that a grammatical syllabus is not necessarily a negative factor. That is, the explicit analysis of grammar can be implemented (a) through the fixed and pre-determined structure of a grammatical lesson plan/syllabus, or (b) through the incidental analysis of grammar points as they arise in the context of communication or the analysis of language meaning in general.
A discussion on the explicit teaching of grammar in the context of communication or the analysis of language meaning.
Caveats to the Findings on the Explicit Analysis of Grammar
The findings from Norris and Ortega’s study, important as they are, need to be qualified given two important caveats that they mention in their analysis. Take note of these caveats as you watch the following segment.
A discussion of some caveats to the findings.
In this segment, we will investigate the relevance and implications of metalinguistic awareness (the consciousness of linguistic form and structure by analyzing language as an object of study).
Watch the segment and make a list of the positive factors that metalinguistic awareness brings about for the development of a second grammar. Would you add more?
A discussion of the relevance and implications of metalinguistic awareness.
Thinking About Language: More Than Just a Skill?
Following up on the previous discussion on metalinguistic awareness, let’s now consider an argument in favor of conceptualizing grammar teaching as more than just a skill-building activity.
Can you think of possible liabilities of visualizing grammar teaching in such a broad way? What are possible advantages?
Grammar teaching as more than just a skill-building activity.
The Effects of Metalinguistic Awareness
Bialystok and Hakuta (1994: 122) argue that learning a second language can have significant effects “because the structures and concepts of different languages never coincide.” Jessner (2006:277) proposes that some of the most important effects of metalinguistic awareness are:
1. divergent and creative thinking
2. interactional and/or pragmatic competence
3. communicative sensitivity and flexibility
Can we construe Jessner’s argument as the theoretical foundation for the explicit teaching of grammar in the second language class?
The explicit analysis of the grammar of a second language and the development of metalinguistic awareness can be highly effective to learn a second language. One problem, however, is that learners may not be developmentally ready to process the grammar points selected by the teacher. One solution to this problem is to focus students on analysis of their own language production.
Typically, learners are exposed to language data from different sources (i.e., language input), and they also produce their own language data (i.e., language output). However, when students analyze their own production, they are effectively using their own language output as input data. This is a useful procedure to help students understand the limitations of their own knowledge and to identify more precisely their learning goals. In the following video segment, the instructor describes the features of the type of processing that underlies the notion of auto-input (as part of output processing).
A discussion on auto-input (output processing).
Watch the video segment and play the role of the student who is engaged in reconstructing a text in a dictogloss activity. Is it difficult to accomplish the goal of the activity? Are the instructions clear enough for students to understand what they have to do?
The instructor leads the class in a dictogloss activity.
Analysis of Dictogloss Benefits
Finally, review the outcome of the dictogloss. The instructor makes specific reference to one particular grammatical structure being used in the reconstructed text.
In your own words, can you describe what type of pedagogical opportunity the dictogloss may bring about?
The outcome of the dictogloss activity is discussed.
[Module Instructor Rafael Salaberry]. 2010. [Grammar]. In Foreign Language Teaching Methods. Carl Blyth, Editor. Texas Language Technology Center, University of Texas at Austin. http://coerll.utexas.edu
The material is provided free of charge for those that wish to study it.
How ever a no obligation exam is available at the end of this module.